The National Museum of Computing have a working PDP8 - and aren't afraid to use it. To play chess.
The National Museum of Computing
has officially launched the first in a series of videos introducing a small selection of their hardware via perennial video-sharing favourite YouTube.
The Museum, which is based at Bletchley Park – home of the team of codebreakers responsible for the creation of the Colossus system for breaking German Enigma ciphers during World War 2, and the spiritual birthplace of modern computing – has been slowly preparing itself for flinging its doors open to the public, and this selection of videos created by its staff is a key step toward its official opening. Currently, visitors to the codebreaking museum at Bletchley Park are allowed limited access to certain exhibits as a bonus on their entry fee.
The short videos, available on the Museum's official YouTube channel
cover the ins and outs of entering programs into a Digital Equipment Corporation PDP8
minicomputer system ready for a rousing game of chess. Younger bit-tech
readers will be bemused by the lack of monitor, curious at the presence of a strip of tape seeming to hold the chess program, and completely flummoxed by the fact that the chap presenting appears to be typing into a printer; if you're of a 'certain age', however, it'll all bring back some nostalgic memories of a different era.
The Museum is also working on a second series, due for uploading some time this week, which will cover the Elliot 803
. These videos are made possible by the Museum's staff being able to restore machines to full working order: not content with creating a building filled with relics gathering dust, the team aim to have every single exhibit within the Museum fully-functional and completely interactive.
It's good to see the team at the Museum producing these videos and allowing a generation of computer enthusiasts who can't imagine a life without a mouse and a 24-bit colour display to see what life was like back at the bleeding edge of the computing industry, and I personally look forward to the day when the doors are opened as a museum in its own right rather than as an annexe to Bletchley Park – and I'll be there, ticket in hand, ready to beat all comers at a game of SpaceWar.
Do we have any bit-tech
readers who remember the days of punch-tape – or even punch cards? Did any of you build an Altair from kit form – and have it work? Share your experiences of the early days of computing over in the forums